Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Leonardo DiCaprio Brought Solar to the Set of 'Inception'

Back in May, we caught wind that Warner Bros was starting to use solar-powered generators to add a bit more green to film sets like Inception and other projects. Not surprisingly, is who pushed for that to happen.

“A lot of this movie (‘Inception’) was made with solar power,” Leonardo DiCaprio said in an interview with the Philippine Daily Inquirer. “It’s the first movie I got to do with solar power. I had a conversation about it with Alan Horn, who’s the head of Warner Bros. The generators that we had on the set were all powered by solar energy. It’s going to be a big conversion to do stuff like that every day, not just in making movies but everything in the world.”

Those generators Horn eventually settled on are made by Pure Power Distribution. As I mentioned in my previous post, such a rig not only tracks the position of the sun for optimal efficiency, but also outputs 600 Amps/72,000 watts of “pure sine wave power with no noise, and no emissions”. That’s enough to keep about a ton of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere each day – along with the other 40 carcinogens found in diesel exhaust.

“We do a lot of things in the world that are wasteful,” Leo added. “We keep talking about this all the time. Hopefully, fingers crossed, with these small steps, we’ll make that transition on a much larger scale in the future.”


5 Solar Electric Vehicle Charging Stations Coming to Tennessee

Diversified industrial manufacturer Eaton Corporation announced its collaboration with the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) for a prototype integrated solar-assisted electric vehicle charging station to be erected at EPRI's research laboratory in Knoxville, Tenn. Additional stations are planned for Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Nashville, Chattanooga and another site in Knoxville.

"Solar-assisted electric vehicle charging stations are a crucial step toward the development of a regional system of clean fuel for electric vehicles," said Tom Schafer, vice president and general manager, Eaton's Commercial Distribution Products Division. "We are confident that these stations will enable a cleaner transportation future with plug-in electric vehicles. Eaton is pleased to collaborate with EPRI and the TVA to ensure the success of these stations."

The collaboration comes on the heels of Eaton's creation of a new business unit that will be responsible for the overall direction and profitable growth of the emerging electric vehicle and transportation infrastructure business within Eaton's Electrical Sector. Eaton has named Tim Old the new business unit manager of this new Electric Transportation Infrastructure unit.

"The new business unit illustrates Eaton's commitment and ability to deliver this new technology to industry and consumers," said Schafer. "Tim Old brings considerable experience, business insight and leadership skills to this new position, and his expertise will help Eaton successfully launch the Electric Transportation Infrastructure business unit."

The prototype charging station used by EPRI and TVA, also known as a Smart Modal Area Recharge Terminal, or SMART(TM) station, will provide information on energy usage, the time when the equipment is used, the amount of solar-generated electricity produced and stored, and the potential impact of load clusters - when several vehicles are refueled at the same time - on distribution system reliability.

The collaboration will create a model charging facility that will charge electric vehicles quickly and reliably, and it will produce data to assist in implementing key components of a smart electrical grid. These components could include integrating renewables onto the grid, utilizing a battery storage system, assessing the impact on reliability of a distributed resource generation, testing advance metering infrastructure and analyzing electric vehicle supply equipment.

Eaton has been developing electrical and hybrid power systems for trucks and buses for more than 20 years. Eaton is the only company to offer hybrid-electric, as well as two hybrid hydraulic power system technologies, and the charging infrastructure for commercial and residential applications.

Eaton recently announced that it will collaborate with Takaoka Electric Manufacturing Company, Ltd. to develop and launch DC Quick Chargers, a key component in the charging of electric vehicle battery packs. The collaboration will enable Eaton to provide a complete line of charging stations across residential, commercial and industrial applications in North America.

Eaton, a global power management leader with comprehensive facilities, field service and support, is currently working to advance the electric vehicle charging infrastructure in Burlington, Ontario, and many other communities across North America. Eaton has a wide range of expertise in other markets that use free-standing electrical charging, including truck-stop electrification, ports, marinas, recreational vehicles, government, and major public-sector infrastructure.

The Electric Power Research Institute, Inc. conducts research and development relating to the generation, delivery and use of electricity for the benefit of the public. An independent, nonprofit organization, EPRI brings together its scientists and engineers as well as experts from academia and industry to help address challenges in electricity, including reliability, efficiency, health, safety and the environment. EPRI's members represent more than 90 percent of the electricity generated and delivered in the United States , and international participation extends to 40 countries. EPRI's principal offices and laboratories are located in Palo Alto, Calif.; Charlotte, N.C.; Knoxville, Tenn.; and Lenox, Mass.

The Tennessee Valley Authority, a corporation owned by the U.S. government, provides electricity for utility and business customers in most of Tennessee and parts of Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky, Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia -- an area of 80,000 square miles with a population of 9 million. TVA operates 29 hydroelectric dams, 11 coal-fired power plants, three nuclear plants and 11 natural gas-fired power facilities and supplies up to 36,000 megawatts of electricity, delivered over 16,000 miles of high-voltage power lines.

Eaton's electrical business is a global leader in power distribution, power quality, control and industrial automation products and services. Eaton's global electrical product lines, including Cutler-Hammer(R), Moeller(R), Powerware(R), Holec(R), MEM(R), Santak(R), and MGE Office Protection Systems(TM) provide customer-driven PowerChain Management(R) solutions to serve the power system needs of the data center, industrial, institutional, government, utility, commercial, residential, and OEM markets worldwide.

Eaton Corporation is a diversified power management company with 2009 sales of $11.9 billion. Eaton is a global technology leader in electrical components and systems for power quality, distribution and control; hydraulics components, systems and services for industrial and mobile equipment; aerospace fuel, hydraulics and pneumatic systems for commercial and military use; and truck and automotive drivetrain and powertrain systems for performance, fuel economy and safety. Eaton has approximately 70,000 employees and sells products to customers in more than 150 countries.


Monday, July 26, 2010

General Mills Completes Massachusetts Solar Installation

General Mills, the world’s sixth-largest food company, began its environmentally responsible business practices in 2009 when the company began harnessing wind power to run its facility in San Adrian, Spain. Wind power now accounts for one-third of the facility’s annual energy use.

On Friday, General Mills announced the completion of the first renewable energy installation sited at one of its U.S.-based plants. The General Mills facility in Methuen, Massachusetts recently completed a solar installation that is expected to supply almost 80 percent of the facility’s summertime electricity needs — and 40 percent of its needs the rest of the year.

On average, the system will produce 55 percent of the facility’s annual energy needs, producing as many as 110,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) annually and avoiding 112,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions annually.

General Mills is only beginning to use new energy-efficient technologies at various locations. The company is currently working on a biomass burner for its oat-milling facility in Fridley, Minnesota. By burning left over oat hulls, the system may generate up to 90 percent of the energy needed to heat the plant and produce oat flour.


Ten Million Solar Roofs Bill Passes Energy Committee

If you haven’t heard by now, the U.S. Senate Energy Committee advanced a big piece of solar energy legislation last week (prior to the killing of the climate and clean energy bill). Vermont senator and Green Jobs Committee chairman Bernie Sanders got his “Ten Million Solar Roofs” bill through the influential Energy Committee on Wednesday with a vote of 13-10.

This bill, as you might guess, is aimed at getting 10 million new solar systems on U.S. roofs in the next 10 years.

If the legislation is eventually approved, it is expected to create hundreds of thousands of jobs and cut greenhouse gas emissions immensely.

“We are losing the race for solar jobs, and falling behind other nations in solar installations,” said Sanders. “That must change. The question is whether we will take advantage of clean, renewable solar energy or let other countries create solar jobs using technology developed in America. I think we can lead. This bill will help us do that.”

Sanders also mentioned the deflating fact that though the U.S. invented the solar cell, countries like Japan, Germany, and Spain have surged ahead of us in the use of this technology.

If the bill goes through, it will offer $250 million for competitive grants in 2012 and $500 million a year after that until 2021.

The U.S. Department of Energy claims that combined with existing solar energy incentives, the 10 Million Solar Roofs bill could exceed its goal of 10 million new solar systems in 10 years.

Though a comprehensive climate and energy bill is now dead, this bill focused on one of the cleanest technologies in the world is alive and worthy of great support. And you can help it along! Contact your Senators today and tell them to support this bill.


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Federal Prison Gets Prisoner-Made Solar Panels

Constellation Energy flipped the switch on a 400 kilowatt solar installation at a Federal Correctional Institution in Fairton in Cumberland County yesterday.

Inmates from the jail, a medium security facility housing male prisoners, with an adjacent minimum security prison camp, provided labor to install the panels alongside union construction workers, the Baltimore-based energy products and services company said today.

The photovoltaic panels were manufactured by an inmate workforce at a factory in a prison in Otisville, N.Y., a medium security state prison also housing male offenders.

The Fairton project was one of two recently completed Constellation contracts at federal correctional institutions, the other was in Petersburg, Va. Both programs combined energy and water conservation measures that included solar panels, as well as adding other renewable technologies to reduce utility costs and improve sustainability at the facilities, the company said. Combined annual cost savings for both facilities will exceed $2.2 million.

In Fairton, Constellation Energy combined a solar photovoltaic power system with facility-wide electrical upgrades, efficient lighting, smart energy controls, water conservation measures, and improvements to the boiler and chiller plants. The Fortune 500 company estimates the facility will reduce energy use by 27 percent and water use by 42 percent, creating more than $800,000 in estimated annual energy cost saving.

The Federal Correctional Institution in Fairton is located in rural south central New Jersey, 50 miles southeast of Philadelphia, Pa., and 40 miles west of Atlantic City, N.J. Both the Federal Correctional Complex in Petersburg and the facility in Fairton are part of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, an agency of the U.S. Department of Justice.


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Solexant to Build Thin Film Solar Cell Oregon Plant

PORTLAND, Ore. — Solexant plans to build a new manufacturing plant for thin film solar cells in the Portland suburb of Gresham, according to a newspaper report.

The Oregonian said Gov. Ted Kulongoski will attend a news conference Tuesday to formally make the long-expected announcement by Solexant, based in San Jose.

If the company's plans play out as previously discussed with state officials, the newspaper said the facility would initially hire 100 workers.

Solexant has applied for a $25 million loan from the Oregon Department of Energy, and has been pre-certified an Oregon energy tax credit of $18.75 million.

Solexant's manufacturing technique, developed at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, allows ultra-thin materials to be used.


Monday, July 19, 2010

Half of New Power in U.S. Last Year Came from Renewables

The UN-supported organization, Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21), conducted a study that shows half of new power generated in the United States in 2009 was renewable energy.

The U.S. has taken great strides toward mass use of renewable energy. Just last year, 10 gigawatts of wind power capacity was installed in the United States, which can power 2.4 million homes. Other advancements in clean energy were made last year as well, such as the $7 million grant for Argonne National Laboratory from the U.S. Department of Energy to further solar power research.

More recently, the Obama Administration has continued contributing funds to keep renewable energy research rolling along. In April, the U.S. government approved the country's first off-shore wind farm, despite those who protested the idea, and just this month, Obama gave a hefty sum of $1.85 billion for new solar energy plants to be built around the U.S. In addition, a promising 73 percent of Americans want to cut fossil fuel dependency in favor of cleaner methods.

While the U.S. is moving along in regards to green technology, other countries around the world have been joining the revolution for a cleaner planet too by implementing new ideas in green technology.

In Europe, 60 percent of new power generation in 2009 was in the form of renewable energy. But China has made the most progress when it comes to green technology by manufacturing more solar panels and wind turbines than any other country, as well as adding of 37 gigawatts of renewable energy to China's overall power generation capacity. Worldwide, renewable energy accounts for 25 percent of total power generation and provided 18 percent of the Earth's electricity in 2009.

Despite these strides in the growing use of renewable energy, the U.S. has a long way to go before they accomplish the U.S. Department of Energy's goal of having 20 percent of America's power derived from wind by 2030.


Town Faces $30M Lawsuit Over Solar Farm

The town and three council members are being sued for more than $30 million for allegedly defaming a business and two individuals with regard to a proposed solar energy farm.

David W. Silek, of the Manassas law firm of Ours & Silek, filed the lawsuit Thursday in Warren County Circuit Court on behalf of SolAVerde LLC, Donald F. Poe and Gregory A. Horton.

In addition to the town, other defendants in the lawsuit are Vice Mayor Chris W. Holloway and Councilmen Carson C. Lauder Jr. and Thomas H. Sayre.

"In an ethical society, elected officials do not engage a policy of the 'ends justifying the means,' but that is exactly the strategy or tactics employed by the Defendants and related parties to serve their private political goals and to stop the development of clean green solar power, both in the Town of Front Royal, Virginia and elsewhere," Silek says in the lawsuit.

Silek says Horton and Poe are partners in SolAVerde. Horton is the owner of Arctic Air Refrigeration Inc. in Front Royal and Poe operates a local construction business, Silek says, adding there could possibly be other plaintiffs added to the lawsuit.

The plaintiffs were first defamed, Silek says, when a member of the Town Council leaked confidential documents to The Northern Virginia Daily in April.

The leaked documents include an April 8 confidential memo from Town Attorney Thomas R. Robinett to the council. In the memo, Robinett refers to "Standard Energy/Solar/SolAVerde" offering 200 jobs and $1.2 million in incentives that were not in a bid for construction of a solar energy farm.

Also among the leaked documents was a memo from Megan C. Rahman, an attorney with the Richmond law firm of Troutman Sanders who specializes in white-collar crime. She notes that background provided by Robinett indicates that one of the three finalists in the bidding for the solar firm project "secretly offered incentives to the Town Manager [J. Michael Graham] that were not contained in its written response" to the request for proposals.

While it appears that Graham did not accept the offer, Rahman says that based on information provided by Robinett, it could be construed as a bribe. Graham has maintained that he was never offered a bribe.

Silek says in the lawsuit that SolAVerde and Standard Energy LLC, whose bid on the town's request for proposal was the top-ranked among all that were received, are "separate and distinct" entities and that none of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit submitted a bid proposal to the town for the construction of a solar farm.

"Considering the fact that Plaintiffs were not part of one of the 'top three' responders to the RFP, it was tortuous to include Plaintiffs in any discussion and should not have been named as a party that 'secretly' offered incentives to the Town Manager that were not contained in its written response to the RFP," Silek says.

In addition to defaming the plaintiffs when Holloway and Lauder inquired of Robinett on March 30 if the "incentives" Graham mentioned to the council constituted a bribe being offered, Silek says Holloway, Lauder and Sayre also defamed his clients when they voted publicly for a state police investigation of the allegation.

"In sum, and taken as a whole," Silek says, "the actions of the Defendants and accusations by them of improper secret meetings or secret proposals and of bribery would be understood by the average hearer or reader or citizen as communicating the defamatory meaning that the Plaintiffs engaged in an unethical manner as well as criminal behavior."

Silek goes on to say that as a result of the defamatory statements made against Horton and Poe, they have suffered financially and emotionally and "that all hope of anything resembling a 'normal life' which they had before is now over and has been destroyed permanently due to the defamation levied by Defendants."

The town is a party to the lawsuit, Silek says, because it "acted with negligence and actual malice in publishing and or sharing or leaking the false and defamatory statements, express and implied."

Silek is asking for a jury trial, and in addition to seeking $30 million from the defendants jointly and severally, he is seeking on behalf of his clients $350,000 in punitive damages from each defendant, jointly and severally, as well as costs.

The defendants have 21 days to respond to the lawsuit from the time they are served. While Holloway and Lauder preferred not to comment on the advice of counsel, Sayre, an attorney, was outspoken in defending himself.

"Speaking only for myself in regards to the lawsuit from the office of David Silek, in my opinion people elect local legislators to look after their best interests, and the town and county's best interest," Sayre said Friday. "I stand by my decision to request a formal investigation into the questions raised by Town Attorney Tom Robinett and the law offices of Troutman Sanders to clear up matters and enable the Town Council to make informed decisions regarding the averred bribery of around $1.2 million. I believe the investigation could have benefited all of the interested parties. As a local legislator, I work for the common good of the people."


NM Village Getting Solar Backup for Water Tanks

The central New Mexico village of Corrales is getting a $1.3 million federal loan to build a solar system that will provide backup electricity to pump water from the village's storage tanks to fire trucks.

The village near Albuquerque lacks a system to supply water to fire hydrants, so the Corrales Fire Department depends on a series of water tanks with electrical pumps to fill fire trucks.

Placing solar units at each tank will provide electrical backup in the event of a village-wide or wider power failure.

Officials say the solar units also will guarantee backup power for critical government administration, police and fire communications.

The loan comes from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development program.


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Will ‘Solar Trees’ Sprout in Parking Lots?

Part of the fine print in solar power systems is that whatever wattage number is quoted, it is usually “peak watts,’’ or the amount of electricity that the panel would deliver when the sun is directly overhead. For the rest of the daylight hours, the output is lower; a graph showing minute-by-minute production resembles a sharp mountain peak.

One way to do better is to mount the panel on a metal backbone and let it tilt over the course of the day, keeping itself pointed towards the sun from sunrise to sunset. This is called a single-axis tracker. Better yet is a two-axis tracker, which also adjusts the angle to compensate for how high the sun is in the sky. Then the graph showing output would resemble a plateau. But all of this adds cost.

Envision Solar, a San Diego company, has found a niche in the solar world by building shaded parking areas with solar panels fixed to the roofs. The panels do not track the sun, but they are angled to take advantage of it: they are usually tilted to the south.

But parking lot designers seldom take solar orientation into account when painting the stripes for the parking spaces; the company has sometimes had to realign the parking stalls so that the roofs will have good solar orientation, with the rows of cars running east-west. In the ideal configuration, said Robert Noble, an architect who founded the firm and is its chief executive, the sun rises in the windshield and sets in the back window, or vice versa.

Now Envision is trying out another idea. On Wednesday, it will announce that with financing from the state of Pennsylvania, it is trying out a “solar tree” mounted on a gimbal, a mechanical device with rings mounted on axes at right angles to each other.

It can track both east to west and north to south and is intended for parking lots. It does not provide shade as reliably, but it does produce about 20 percent more electricity than a fixed panel, turning the peak into more of a plateau. In the video animation above, the patterns on the panels look a bit like sunflowers.

Mr. Noble calls it “solar forestation.”

The company is pairing the solar tree with batteries built by Axion of New Castle, Pa., so that the installation can deliver current after sunset. The two technologies, solar tracking and battery storage, are independent of each other, however.

Much depends on how much maintenance the tracking system will require, but it could make many of today’s rooftop solar arrays obsolete by delivering more electricity from each panel, Mr. Noble said.

But covered parking has other benefits, some of which would be preserved by the solar trees. They require electric cables laid in trenches, affording an opportunity to set up charging stations for electric vehicles or plug-in hybrids, he pointed out. And if a driver can charge up at work as well as at home, the daily range of a car may be doubled, he said.

Energy from the panels will flow back into the power grid, and if charging stations are installed, they will draw energy from the grid. That way electric cars can charge when it is cloudy or dark.

What is more, Mr. Noble said, “you can charge more for shaded parking.”'


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Indiana Offers Grants for Solar Water Heaters

Indiana is opening its purse to help some of the state's businesses, schools and municipalities offset the costs of installing large solar water heating systems.

Eligible recipients that use more than 100,000 gallons of hot water each year can receive up to $25,000 under the Indiana Solar Thermal grant program.

Applicants must provide 75 percent of the project cost through private funding.

The Indiana Office of Energy Development is offering a total of $150,000 to businesses, municipalities, schools and nonprofits. Applications will be accepted from Aug. 1 to Sept. 1.

The program is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy and the State Energy Program.


Saturday, July 10, 2010

Nevada Site Larger Than Manhattan to Test Solar Technology

Part of the Nevada desert previously used to test nuclear weapons is to be used to test solar power technology, the federal government said today.

An area larger than Manhattan will be used to try out cutting-edge concentrating solar power (CSP) systems that might one day power US military bases.

The 25-square-mile Solar Demonstration Zone is to be established on federal land in the southwest corner of the Nevada Test Site.

The Department of Energy is working with the Department of the Interior on the project, which should help with the commercialization of CSP technologies.

Plans are now underway to set up a funding program to attract demonstration projects to the Nevada Test Site.

The Departments hope to see site preparation and construction starting by this time next year, with construction beginning on the solar power plants by September 2011.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu said: “The Nevada Test Site is about to play a new role in securing America’s future – but instead of testing nuclear weapons, we will test new solar technologies that will help put America on a sustainable energy path.”


Concentrating solar power systems use curved mirrors and/or optical lenses to focus sunlight collected from a large area on a small point, where it can be strengthened to hundreds of times normal sunlight.

The concentrated sunlight is then used to heat a transfer fluid that can then be put through a heat exchanger, with the heat used to drive a steam turbine to generate electricity.

The Nevada Test Site can and should be a proving ground for new ideas” - Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid

The new Nevada Solar Demonstration Zone will test out CSP technologies along with 24 Solar Energy Study Areas set up on public lands across the Southwest region.

Nevada Senator Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader, said: “The Nevada Test Site can and should be a proving ground for new ideas and for attracting new clean energy industries that will help our state and country compete globally.”

The Department of Energy reviewed 26 possible locations before selecting the Nevada Test Site for the demonstration program.

Working with the Bureau of Land Management, which manages 23 million acres of federal land in the Southwest, the Department has been working with the US Air Force to identify and address potential difficulties from locating the Solar Demonstration Zone on an old nuclear test site.


Nevada May Become Epicenter for U.S. Solar Development

There may be no better way to turn around a struggling state economy than by promoting renewable energy jobs. So goes the collective mindset of Nevada Senator Harry Reid and U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, as they announced yesterday a plan to bring a solar thermal testing site to the state of Nevada. Construction of the site is set to begin in 2011 and bring thousands of long- and short- term jobs to the state, which currently has a 14 percent unemployment rate, according toCSMonitor.com. - Home foreclosures, another economic barometer, are high, too: one in every 79 homes are in foreclosure, according to fox5vegas.

The desert laboratory for testing new solar technologies is scheduled to be built on 25 square miles of the same test site used by the U.S. Government in the 1950’s to test the nation’s nuclear capabilities. The area stands approximately 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas. According to several government officials, who spoke to the Las Vegas Sun, the majority of the testing will focus on developing new solar thermal technologies.

This type of solar power setup entails using mirrors to direct the sun’s rays onto a liquid-filled tube or tower. The heat boils the liquid, creating steam that turns a turbine. Much of the new technology developed will focus on creating better ways to store the heat and reduce water consumption.

The testing facility is expected to allow the U.S. to develop and market new solar technology at a faster rate, with the end goal being to drive prices down, which is a key ingredient to the widespread adoption of renewable energy. And if solar is a large part of that renewable energy future, what better place to make the epicenter of it all, says Reid, than Nevada with its 300+ sunny days a year.


Friday, July 9, 2010

Feds Put Kibosh On Solar Financing Program

The Federal Housing Finance Agency has officially nixed local programs that use property tax bills to back loans for retrofitting homes with solar power.

The agency that oversees home loans has come out against local programs that use property-financed loans to pay for solar panel retrofits.

The problem, the agency said, is that the loans have priority over the mortgages on the homes, and might put some homeowners at greater risk of default.

In a statement released this week, the FHFA said it is urging "state and local governments to reconsider these programs and continues to call for a pause in such programs so concerns can be addressed."

The loans are part of a program called Property Assessed Clean Energy, or PACE. It involves a locality -- usually a city -- offering loans to homeowners to defray the up-front cost of installing solar panels. Those loans can then be packaged as bonds for investors. The loan is paid back by an extra fee tacked on to the property tax, and is a first lien, meaning the creditors are ahead of the mortgage lender.

A number of states and localities have adopted such programs -- Berkeley, Calif., was among the first, in 2009 -- and 22 states have passed laws allowing cities to set the programs up. California was set to roll out the program statewide. The new rules don't apply to anyone who has already taken part in the program, but they will keep them from expanding.

The FHFA says there are problems. Among them are the standards used for lending. Often the amount of the loan is based on the percentage of the assessed value of the home rather than ability to pay. In addition, a first lien loan is another payment the homeowner has to make, which in turn alters the risk profile of the borrower. This upsets the calculations done by other investors, especially those in mortgage-backed securities.

The FHFA sent a letter to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which together back half of all the home loans in the U.S. The letter told the two agencies to take steps to protect themselves from the possibility of default.

But some of those steps would make PACE financing much more difficult, if not close it off entirely. Among them are adjusting loan-to-value ratios to reflect the maximum possible PACE loan amounts -- essentially counting the PACE loan along with the mortgage when calculating risk.

Berkeley offers up to $37,500. Nils Moe, assistant to the mayor, said the new rules basically preclude the statewide rollout.

"It will take a legislative fix to set everything right," he said. However, he is confident one will be forthcoming. And while he understands the FHFA's objections, he said he wasn't convinced they would be a real world concern."I understand how this would be a big concern in theory, but it really shouldn't be a big issue," he said.

The counterargument is that the PACE obligation is basically a tax lien on the property and in the case of Berkeley's program is passed on to whoever buys it (assuming the loan isn't paid off). In that sense it is no different from other tax liens. A study by clean technology research firm Pike Research notes that such liens in theory depend on the property rather than the owner, though some buyers might negotiate with the seller to pay off liens before closing.


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Solar Powered Plane Takes 24-Hour Flight

London, England - A solar-powered aircraft which one day hopes to circle the globe has started a 24-hour test flight in Switzerland.

Solar Impulse took off shortly before 5 am GMT, Wednesday from an airfield in Payerne, 80 miles northeast of Geneva.

The plane is being piloted by Andre Borschberg who will fly the plane to a height of nearly 28,000 feet (8,500 meters) throughout the day.

During the evening the plane will slowly descend to an altitude of 5,000 feet (1,500 meters) where it will remain for the rest of the night, before Borschberg attempts a dawn landing.

Solar Impulse has a wingspan of over 63 meters -- the same as an Airbus A340 -- and is nearly 22 meters long. It weighs 1,600 kilograms and has nearly 12,000 solar cells attached to its wings and horizontal stabilizers.

The plane is also equipped with four electric engines and has a top speed of 70 kilometers per hour.

"The goal of the project is to have a solar-powered plane flying day and night without fuel," co-founder of the project, Bertrand Piccard said.

The Swiss adventurer, who piloted the first non-stop balloon flight around the world in 1999 in the Breitling Orbiter III said the test flight was "crucial for the credibility of the project."

The challenge to fly a solar plane around the world was officially announced in 2003.

If the 24-hour flight is successful, a second airplane will be designed to fly much further next year, with the aim of flying across continents and the Atlantic Ocean.

In 2012, the team hope to fly Solar Impulse around the world in five stages.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Abound Solar Inc., a Solar Panel Manufacturer, to Locate in Tipton Indiana

Abound Solar, Inc. will locate a solar module manufacturing operation in an 800,000 square-foot facility previously constructed in partnership with Chrysler for the German transmission maker, Getrag. Abound Solar projects to add up to 850 workers by 2013 at the Tipton site.

This move represents a more than $500 million investment in machinery, equipment and building improvements.

Abound Solar's thin-film photovoltaic module manufacturing technology was born out of Colorado State University in the late 1980's. The company, which also has production operations in Longmont, Colo., expects that when completed, the Tipton site will be the largest solar panel manufacturing facility in the U.S., producing millions of panels annually.

The company intends to hire for positions such as engineers, technicians and production associates once facility renovations begin.

The IEDC offered Abound Solar, Inc. up to $11.85 million in performance-based tax credits and $250,000 in training grants based on the company's job creation plans and will also provide workforce and ombudsman assistance. Tipton County has approved additional incentives including tax abatement for the company along with tax increment financing dollars to the land trust which owns the building.

Abound Solar is a manufacturer of next-generation, cadmium telluride thin-film photovoltaic modules. Abound Solar is producing solar modules that significantly reduce the cost of generating solar electricity using a robust, commercial-scale, continuous manufacturing process.


Friday, July 2, 2010

Now Serving - Solar Power in San Diego

The 30-year-old Ronald McDonald House in San Diego, a 47-bedroom facility that serves as a shelter for families with seriously ill children in local hospitals, is the first of the non-profit’s facilities to invest in solar technology. The installation was undertaken to reduce electricity costs so that more of the charity’s money could go to direct services for the families.

The project, handled by Canadian Solar and installer HelioPower, boasts 518 panels that create a 116-kilowatt array on the rooftop. The panels are expected to produce about 147,846 kilowatt-hours of electricity each year; the equivalent carbon dioxide emissions offset is 151,420 pounds. PV Powered was responsible for supplying a 100-kilowatt inverter. The organizations offered their services at a reduced cost so that more money could go back into the charity, according to a statement released about the installation.

The Ronald McDonald House in San Diego is seeking a certification under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program. The solar is one step toward that certification. Overall, the building in question already uses approximately 17.5 percent less power than similar buildings in California.